Cancer turned personal for Victoria Hospitals Foundation supporter

Glenys Berry and her husband, Reg, are longtime supporters of the Victoria Hospitals Foundation, but their commitment to the cause grew even deeper after the lifesaving treatment she received from the local health-care system.

It began with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer when Berry was 68. She went in for assessment after experiencing an ongoing backache and unusual weight loss in the summer of 2014.

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She took the step after talking to Sue Smee, a friend with ovarian cancer who has since died from the disease.

“She told me her symptoms and bells went off for me,” Berry said. “I do believe she saved my life by really encouraging me to get a CT scan and get this checked out.”

Smee is one of six close friends that Berry has lost to cancer. That group includes a friend who died of ovarian cancer at 49 after being diagnosed in her early 40s.

“It is a disease that young women are getting more and more,” Berry said. “I believe it’s important that that they are also aware of the symptoms.”

Of everything that has come with her situation, it has been the doctors, nurses and other staff in the hospitals that have stood out the most, she said. She is also thankful for the medical technology that was used along the way.

Berry said it was that technology, specifically medical-imaging equipment, that was the key to her treatment. In fact, she has had 13 scans over the past five years.

The first came after a blood test to detect a type of protein that can indicate ovarian cancer. A subsequent CT scan found a mass on an ovary, and an ultrasound confirmed it.

“Within 10 days, I was in surgery,” Berry said.

The hope going into the operation was that the mass would turn out to be benign, but she knew as soon as she saw her husband’s face afterward that was not the case.

The next step was chemotherapy, which had some difficult moments because she twice had a bad reaction to it.

She got through by likening it to riding into battle, an appropriate analogy since she loves to ride horses around the family’s Sooke acreage. She likened her cancer cells to the evil “orcs” — creatures from the Lord of the Rings — that had to be defeated.

By the fall of 2015, her scans showed no evidence of disease and she was officially in remission. But then the cancer returned, this time on an artery.

More surgery removed it, and she is cancer-free once more.

“Having surgeons you trust is so important,” Berry said. “I can’t say enough about the kindness of the staff at our hospitals. They make such a difference.”

Berry continues to be monitored with CT scans every six months and blood work every three months. She said the scans give her peace of mind.

“I’m never fully cured, but I’m not worried anymore,” she said.

She said she is grateful.

“I continue to be in remission and monitored very closely,” she said. “I’m so lucky to have doctors who care so deeply about me, and who have the right technology available so they can see what’s going on inside my body right now.”

Berry hopes the details of her story might help somebody else who is having concerning symptoms. She also hopes that they might inspire others to donate to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s Big Picture Campaign, which has a fundraising goal of $4 million to purchase new imaging equipment, including a CT scanner.

Imaging equipment is part of almost every surgery performed at Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals, whether before, during or after the procedures.

The need to have the right equipment in place was driven home as her case progressed, Berry said.

“It’s amazing when something hits you that full in the face,” she said. “You realize the importance of the technology that is in the process of saving your life.

“It becomes very personal.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

HOW TO DONATE

Donations to the Big Picture Campaign can be made by:

• Going to victoriahf.ca/bigpicture

• Calling 250-519-1750

• Mailing a cheque to Wilson Block, 1952 Bay St., Victoria, B.C., V8R 1J8

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